So, you’ve decided to come to San Francisco—the land of cable cars, slanting hills, and insufferable hipsters working in tech.
San Francisco is unique for a lot of reasons (not limited to the fact that our fog is a social media personality and we host events like this), and while I’ll spare you the full intro for now, I can tell you that our climate is certainly one of those defining factors.
A lot of first-time visitors come to the city with bikinis and shorts in tow, and if you’re in the middle of packing your flip-flops in your suitcase, you might want to wait until you’ve read this.
Here’s all you need to know about what to wear in San Francisco.
How to Dress in San Francisco: An Overview
1.) The city, on average, is the same temperature all year round…
On any given day, there’s a pretty good chance that it will be 60 degrees even. Not terribly cold, but not Cancún weather, either. This is the mild climate that the city sits at on most days, both in summer and winter.
2.) …but the temperate can range from freezing to pleasant within a few miles
San Francisco may be small, but it is nothing if not diverse. Head a few miles in any direction and you’ll find your surroundings shifting from taquerias and sundresses to hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants and parkas (I’m not kidding).
In general, the weather gets cooler and foggier as you head northwest (towards the Pacific), and warmer and sunnier as you approach the Bay, or move inland. These rules go fully out the window if you make it up to a lookout point (think Twin Peaks)—even if the ocean is a 30-minute drive away, you can expect small children and animals to get knocked over by the wind. You have been warned.
3.) Mornings and evenings are almost always cold
The city is a lot like an oven that you switch on and off each day: it starts from stark cold and gently preheats to the desired temperature, then slowly cools once you turn it off. In other words, you can expect it to be a good 20-30 degrees colder in the mornings and evenings than the day’s predicted high.
4.) Layering is key
With all of that said, layering is the most crucial aspect of dressing for San Francisco’s unpredictable and moody climate. One of the cardinal rules respected by all locals is to never leave the house without a jacket—even if it’s currently 80 degrees and sunny.
5.) Don’t overdress
The number one virtue valued by locals is acting like you don’t care. Party of the year? Eh, maybe I’ll make it. Buying shrooms in a public park? Sure, why not.
This attitude is especially apparent in the way we dress. Boots over heels, flannel over cashmere, leather over silk. If you’re going clubbing (which no one really does in the first place), don’t show up in sequins and stilettos; you’ll stand out like a sore thumb. If you have dinner reservations at a four-dollar-sign restaurant, no one will bat an eye if you show up in sneakers and jeans. In fact, the waiters will probably think you’re a multi-millionaire if you do.
What to Wear in the Fall
|Relevant Months:||September, October|
|Average Days with Rainfall:||1-4|
Fall is a glorious time to visit. Unlike the rest of the country, where the leaves start to change and the weather cools and crisps, San Francisco is wonderfully warm. And sunny. It’s the only time of year where you really feel like you’re in California, and not some alternative universe where a moody teenager rules the daily weather forecast.
It rarely rains during this time of year, until you start creeping into the winter months (say, mid-November). You can expect averages of 70-degrees during the day.
1.) Denim shorts, for days at the park and hikes around the city
2.) Relaxed jeans and cotton pants, for cooler evenings, but with a warm-weather vibe
3.) Layering tops, see rules above in “Overview”
4.) Lightweight sweater, for a casual autumn feel
5.) Summer dress that pairs well with sweaters and jackets
6.) Light jacket to wear in the evenings
7.) Sandals that you can wear out to nicer dinners and events
8.) Sneakers that are well broken-in, for long days of walking
9.) Small bag, since you don’t need to carry heavy layering materials around
What to Wear in the Winter
|Relevant Months:||November, December, January, February|
|Average Days with Rainfall:||7-11|
Californians are wimps when it comes to cold. While we’re not quite as bad as those down in LA (where anything sub-70 is considered “freezing”), we do tend to hibernate in instances of wind and rain. It can get down to the 40s fairly often.
Winter can be wet here, and some years (looking at you 2018-2019), it feels like the rain is unrelenting. During the wetter ones, you can expect at least a light sprinkle almost every day. You’ll need a jacket or raincoat on you at all times.
1.) Raincoat, because rain
2.) Rain boots, because rain (make sure they’re comfortable!)
3.) Dark jeans that will keep you warm
4.) High-quality black leggings that you can substitute for pants (trust me, it’s a look here)
5.) Thick sweater that’s comfortable and warm
6.) Layering tops, with more long-sleeves than camis
7.) Warm coat or jacket that you can layer under your raincoat (aim for quality over bulk, like a leather jacket)
8.) Sneakers for drier days
9.) Backpack or tote bag that can fit your raincoat and layering materials
10.) Big scarf for protecting from the wind
11.) Beanie to keep your head warm (and for bad hair day emergencies)
Looking for things to do in San Francisco in winter on those rainy days? Check out these top museums to visit!
What to Wear in the Spring
|Relevant Months:||March, April, May|
|Average Days with Rainfall:||4-10|
The rain begins to lighten and the sun finally comes out. It’s still on the cooler side during the day, but as long as it’s not cloudy, you can expect temperatures to be at a comfortable 65.
As locals finally emerge from their overpriced apartments, there’s a palpable sense of excitement for winter to finally be over, and it shows—especially in the way we dress. You’ll find everyone shedding their layers and trading in their heavy coats for lighter wear, like denim jackets. Skirts and dresses also make appearances on occasion. It’s a good idea to check what the weather will be like each day.
1.) Denim jacket, it really is the key staple for every local’s spring wardrobe
2.) Blouse with unique embellishments (they won’t be hiding under layers of cardigans anymore)
3.) Layering tops, because it could still get cold depending on the week
4.) Light sweater to wear over tops and dresses
5.) Midi or maxi skirt for sunnier days
6.) Jeans or pants for the not-so-sunny days
7.) Sandals to wear out or to the park
8.) Closed-toe shoes that fare well in puddles, in case of light showers
9.) Purse or daypack to carry your stuff in
Thinking about day trips away from the city? Check out the 31 Top Experiences in the Bay Area!
What to Wear in the Summer
|Relevant Months:||June, July, August|
|Average Days with Rainfall:||1|
Summer! Sunshine! Beaches! What a time to be alive!
Summer is a weird season to know how to dress for in San Francisco. While it’s usually not as cold as in winter (and you won’t see a lick of rain), it can be very cloudy, and our good friend Karl likes to pay a visit fairly often. Still, the summer spirit is very much alive, and you’ll find locals picnicking in parks and biking around the city, even if it’s a bit chilly.
1.) Bikini, because even if it’s 55 and cloudy, someone will drag you out to the beach
2.) Cover-up, for when you’re freezing your a*s off on said beach
3.) Cardigan, for layering when the fog rolls in
4.) Flannel or light jacket, for more layering
5.) Layering tops, because this is San Francisco and we’re all about the layers
6.) Lightweight pants, to keep you warm
7.) Sneakers, for walking around and exploring in
8.) Midi or maxi dress, to get into the summer spirit without totally freezing
9.) Tote bag or daypack, packed with a blanket if you plan on visiting any parks
Have you ever been to San Francisco? What was the most useful thing you packed? Anything you left at home but wish you brought? Comment below!
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